Countess Anne von Borke commissions her maid Marie to take part in an aristocratic event - dressed according to the occasion. She is expected to redeem her mistress’ honor, by regaining a letter from her formerly middle-class lover. However, Marie does not feel comfortable in her clothes, which is why everyone can see the maid in her. It is only Mr. Stein who is demanding civic rights for her – but his quotations from the German master poets Goethe and Kleist are finally just empty shells. Marie has a hard time surviving the night in the upper- class, whose main interest is self- portrayal. In the meantime an opera singer is singing about the revenge of a deceived mermaid.
“Maries Leben” draws a historical portrait of a servant girl at the beginning of the 19th century. Inspired by Goethe's Elective Affinities, the film searches for a new combination of history, film and art in a realistic way. It is one of the rare short films that was shot almost exclusively in candlelight.
The film sheds a light on the double standards of the 19th century upper class. It tells the story of a maid who is aware of her mistress' needs, but unaware of her own ones. Even though in the upper-class she is familiarized with the concepts of enlightenment, the same circle of people forces her to accept and confirm the social system she lives in. At the end Marie realizes that this day with this experience will continuously repeat itself, as it seems to be impossible to go beyond the boundaries.